Robert Mitchell – The Glimpse
(Whirlwind Records WR4630. CD Review by Chris Parker)
‘The feeling of learning to have ideas flow into a deliberately limited place’ is how pianist/composer Robert Mitchell characterises the appeal of the material on this, an album of solo left-hand jazz/classical piano. His motivation, however, is by no means solely artistic: he is about to celebrate, via a festival named ‘Leftitude’ (The Forge, Camden, 20/21 March), ‘all those who have performed/created in this way … whether from birth, injury, warfare etc.’ in order to ‘breed a positive future for the left hand [and] to inspire the creativity of composers and improvisers in this area’.
To be convinced of the need for this reassessment, one only has to look at the English-language adjectives derived from the Latin words for left (sinister) and right (dexterous); the consequences of this prejudice range, according to Mitchell, from ‘many being forced to change their writing hand’ to ‘witch-hunts and worse’. (I can personally confirm the seriousness of this issue, having been threatened, on my first day at school, as a natural left-hander, with having that hand tied behind my back if I continued to write with it – I now write with the pen gripped uncomfortably between the first two fingers of my right hand – and was, as a child, continually being berated for the ‘clumsiness’ that resulted from this unnecessary switch.)
Mitchell’s album is something of a revelation, including absorbing improvisations, compositions (by Federico Mompou and Fred Hersch) and a number of cogent Mitchell originals that intriguingly vindicate his stated aim: to exploit ‘different pathways, previously unseen possibilities, and a sensibility that uses the explicit and the implied in a fascinatingly different way’.